Swede Chopra holds nerve to claim maiden Tour win

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MIAMI, Oct 29 (Reuters) Swede Daniel Chopra held his nerve to win his maiden PGA Tour title by a stroke at the weather-delayed Ginn sur Mer Classic in Port St. Lucie, Florida today.

With three holes to play in the rain-hit tournament at the Tesoro Club, Chopra edged ahead with a birdie at the par-five 16th before parring the last two for a two-under-par 71.

The Swede, who had been tied for the overnight lead with compatriot Fredrik Jacobson and Japan's Shigeki Maruyama, finished on 19-under 273 to become the Tour's 12th first-time winner this season.

Jacobson and three-times PGA Tour winner Maruyama parred their last two holes for closing 69s to share second place at 18 under, two ahead of American Dicky Pride, who signed off with a 64.

''It's amazing,'' a beaming Chopra told reporters after clinching the winner's cheque for 810,000 dollars in the Tour's penultimate event of the season.

''It is something I've dreamed about for a long time. When I was playing in Europe, I would sit on the couch every evening when I was home and I'd watch the (PGA Tour) telecast. Just to be out on the PGA Tour was always my dream.

''Coming from India, growing up there and having to fly overseas just to buy golf balls because you couldn't buy them in India at the time,'' the 33-year-old added.

''To think that I could come from there to being a winner on the PGA Tour, it's pretty special.'' The globe-trotting Chopra, born to a Swedish mother and Indian father, regained control of the tournament when he birdied his first hole of the morning.

FIFTH BIRDIE Despite missing the 16th fairway to the right off the tee and finding the first cut of rough with his second shot, he struck his approach to nine feet to set up his fifth birdie of the round.

The Stockholm native safely negotiated the par-three 17th, finding the front portion of the green and two-putting from around 55 feet.

With his closest challengers Jacobson and Maruyama in the clubhouse at 18 under, Chopra coolly parred the last to secure the title and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

Although bunkered off the tee at the par-four 18th, the 33-year-old hit his second shot to 26 feet before lipping out with his birdie attempt. He then calmly tapped in for par before raising his right arm in celebration.

Maruyama, who has struggled on the PGA Tour for much of this season, earned full playing privileges for next year with his tie for second place.

''I'm very, very happy,'' the 38-year-old said after climbing from 137th spot to 103rd in the PGA Tour money list, comfortably inside the top 125.

''This year was really, really hard. It was the most difficult year in eight years for me and I'm just really happy I'm able to finish this high on the money ranking.'' For the fifth day in a row, players were allowed to lift, clean and replace golf balls on the fairways because of the wet, muddy conditions.

Reuters PDS GC2114

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